Highly regulated salinity gradients in solar salt pond concentrating sequences provide an opportunity to investigate in situ salinity impacts on aquatic. ora and fauna. The Shark Bay Salt solar ponds at Useless Inlet in Western Australia vary in salinity from seawater to four times seawater over the pond sequence. We observed a shift from planktonic to benthic primary productivity as salinity increased. Water column photosynthesis and biomass decreased markedly with increasing salinity, while benthic productivity increased as cyanobacterial mats developed. Correspondingly, productivity shifted from autotrophy to heterotrophy in the water column and from heterotrophy to autotrophy in the benthos. Both shifts occurred at intermediate salinity (S = 110 g kg(-1), rho = 1.087 g cm(-3)) in the pond sequence, where there was little production by either. Within individual ponds, productivity, algal biomass and physico-chemical conditions were relatively constant over one year, with only water column photosynthesis significantly different between seasons, mostly due to greater winter production. Transitions between benthic and planktonic production and their relative magnitudes appear to be driven mostly by direct responses to salinity stress, but also by changes in nutrient availability and grazing, which are also influenced by salinity.